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The 100 best games ever

80. Hearthstone

A free-to-play online collectible card game has no right to be this good. But Blizzard pulled all of its best tricks to take Hearthstone from being a fun little diversion for Warcraft fans to one of the most intuitive card games we've ever played. All you need to do is look at the cards in your hand and decide how best to spend your ramping allotment of mana each turn. Sounds simple, and it is: learning how to play is a cinch. But you'll only know true mastery hundreds of hours later.

As you practice with each class and unlock more style-defining cards, you'll find there are so many interesting ways to fill out your deck and crush your opponents. By the time you realize that you can earn booster packs just by completing daily quests - and that you can break down the cards you don't need, to synthesize them into cards you actually want - you're as good as hooked.

79. Tomb Raider

Reboots are dime-a-dozen these days, but few hit a homerun as clear and true as Crystal Dynamics' reinvigoration of a venerable action icon. Emerging from the disproportionate image that first propelled then diminished her on consoles gone by, the new Ms. Croft is younger, fiercer and more resilient than ever. Time to watch your back, Mr. Drake.

The treacherous island that surrounds Croft is everything you could hope for in a reborn Tomb Raider. A vicious tale of survival and the ignorance of youth tempered into adulthood, Lara's reimagined origins build a captivating synergy between environmental puzzles and gunfights that more than stand their ground in a post-Uncharted world. Whether you're battling wolves, bandits, or the elements themselves, this Tomb Raider sets a new standard for captivating adventures.

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78. Dragon Age: Inquisition

Sometimes, games are just games. Go in, fight the things, get the best sword, beat the worst thing, save the world, roll credits. That's fine. But sometimes games are more than that: intense, 100-hour-long adventures with intricate details that threaten to immerse you so deep that you'll forget to eat.

Dragon Age has always been about lore and love stories, and Dragon Age: Inquisition perfects the art. Nuance is the key: the characters have personalities, desires, and feelings, while missions require diplomacy and careful, tactical dialogue choices rather than the all-guns-blazing approach. The landscape and story don't just unfold, they radically change based on your unflagging efforts, making it totally ok to play this for 80-something hours rather than focusing on boring things like socializing or personal hygiene.

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77. Super Monkey Ball

What's a game about spherical simians doing on this list? Surely there are better options than one which involves rolling around collecting fruit on floating, tilting platforms in a barely-explained premise? Oh, dear friend. You clearly haven't played Super Monkey Ball, the best monkey/ball/banana game on the market, and your life is all the poorer for it.

As a puzzle game, there's plenty to love, hate, or be driven mad by - particularly the low-friction banana frenzy, with levels that twist, turn, and ripple beneath you, threatening to cast you off into the abyss below. Its mini-games, particularly the still-perfect Monkey Target, are the precursor to the kind of colorful point-grabbing you'll find in any number of modern party games. Ergo, Super Monkey Ball is the precursor to all games ever, and that's why it's the best and there's nothing more to say on the matter.

76. Dead Space

Built atop Resident Evil 4's solid foundation, Dead Space takes a fresh approach to the survival horror genre. With more than a little inspiration from Ridley Scott's Alien - not to mention a dash of John Carpenter's The Thing - the developers at Visceral were out to make the game as terrifying as possible, trapping players in quiet corridors with some of the most horrific enemies in gaming. Dead Space's vision of the future is lonely, dark, and bloody.

The original Dead Space lacks the larger conspiracies and action set-pieces that bogged down later entries. Instead we follow one desperate man's lonely, terrified search for his girlfriend on a space station that long ago gave way to madness. The game's HUD-less display and sparing use of sound gives a naturalism to the sci-fi, all of which heightens the terror. And even when the scares might be too much for you, there's always something oddly addictive to shooting off enemy limbs. It's like popping bubblewrap - so satisfying.

75. Civilization 5

Sid Meier's Civilization 5 remains one of the best entry points into the series, as well as a great game in its own right. It skillfully blends the depth and complexity of previous Civ games with the accessibility of Civilization Revolution to create a unified whole that'll get you hooked in under an hour, and keep you playing for a hundred more.

Designing your strategy (maybe absolute conquest with Russia, or a cultural victory with the French) and then adapting that game plan based on the changing geopolitical landscape, is a fun and engrossing challenge every time you play. But Civ 5's greatest strength is its bottomless well of fan-made content. From Game of Thrones to My Little Pony, if there's a feature you hope to see in the game, chances are someone has made it a reality.

74. EarthBound

EarthBound treads where few RPGs dare: modern-day suburbia. Instead of quaffing health potions that you picked up from the local general store, order a pizza and take it to-go. Or better yet, scarf down a cheeseburger you found in a trash can - no one's judging. Beat up on Unassuming Local Guys and New Age Retro Hippies instead of garden-variety goblins and dragons. Hitch a ride to the next town with a band that looks an awful lot like The Blues Brothers. Most games would be lucky to have one or two memorable moments like this. EarthBound has them in spades.

It's a pastiche of American pop culture wrapped up in the wackiest Japanese role-playing game ever made. It's heartwarming yet haunting; playful yet sincere. But most of all, EarthBound proves that the adventure of a lifetime can start right in your own backyard. And there's nothing else like it.

73. Ikaruga

Treasure has crafted so many wonderfully obscure shoot-'em-ups that it seems almost gauche to nominate one of their best-known and most accessible works for this list. But Ikaruga's genius lies in the way it serves as a gateway drug of sorts, teaching shoot-'em-up dabblers how to swoop and swoosh across the screen like a score-chasing fiend.

Almost more puzzler than shooter, Ikaruga is built around a 'black and white polarity' conceit: basically, enemies fire a barrage of monochrome light at your ship, and you can in turn flip polarities at the press of a button to guzzle up like-colored beams for energy. Thus, the screen's entire geometry changes in an instant, leading to countless death-defying, heart-stopping runs through waves of lethal plasma.

72. Fable 2

Fable 2 provides a more literal take on role-playing, letting you shape a hero through behavioral gestures that see you turn from twinkle-in-the-eye Prince Charming to pants-shitting jester with the press of a button. This latter accident - the result of a farting mini-game gone wrong - is funnier than it should be, especially when deployed before a crowd of yokels who've gathered to admire your fine dancing. You'd never see that in a Zelda game.

By putting its focus on silly moment-to-moment decisions in a world where even meat-eating can contribute to your unethical standing, Fable 2 allows your hero to gradually form over a virtual life, rather than defining them at a handful of colossal moral crossroads. Not that the game doesn't do those, too. In fact, such is the general silliness of life in Albion that when those tough calls do arrive, they hit all the harder for it.

71. Sonic the Hedgehog 2

One of the smoothest, slickest platformers ever made, this sequel fixes the few shortcomings of its predecessor. The two-act-per-level structure means the pacing is wonderful - and a perfect fit for the fastest thing alive. The opening sequence of Emerald Hill, Chemical Plant Zone and Aquatic Ruin is magnificent, packing three servings of gorgeous scrolling backgrounds, speed, hardcore platforming, and bosses into some 15 minutes of gaming.

The music is among the finest on any 16-bit machine, despite Mega Drive/Genesis' arguably inferior sound capabilities. And with timeless iconography, an ultra-dramatic final level, and countless opportunities for fun (pinball flippers, launch ramps, slot machines, secret paths, 3D special stages, etc.), this is as close to universal gaming fun as you can get.